New contract buys votes, opposition charges
The Progressive Conservative and New Democratic parties are criticizing the P.E.I. government for a new contract with the public sector union.
More than 2,600 provincial government employees are covered by the deal. They will get a 9.5 per cent wage increase over the next five years. The contract also promises no layoffs for permanent employees before March 31, 2016.
Most of the increases will occur just after the next provincial election, and the opposition says that's an obvious attempt at vote buying.
Progressive Conservative finance critic James Aylward said civil servants work hard and deserve increases, but he argues the pay raises should have been brought in evenly throughout the life of the contract, rather than loaded up towards the end of it.
"It's basically crass politics," said Aylward.
"We all know that the election is going to be around that time, and what better time to try to buy votes with a topped up contract?"
UPSE president Debbie Bovyer says she thinks politics is involved in the new deal.
"Was there some political motivation behind that, backending the raises? There's no doubt there was," said Bovyer.
But Bovyer said the 9.5 per cent increase over five years is in line with the times.
New Democrat Leader Mike Redmond called the contract an example of Finance Minister Wes Sheridan "kicking the can down the road" for the next government to deal with the cost. He also questioned the no-layoffs promise.
"To promise somebody there's not going to be a layoff on Prince Edward Island for UPSE, when look what's happening at UPEI with all the jobs that are being lost, I think it's really irresponsible," said Redmond.
Sheridan declined an interview with CBC News on the contract. His office said he was pleased there is a five-year contract now in place.